Today is Twelfth Night and the official end of the holiday season, and, in medieval England, it was back luck to take down your Christmas tree before today. It was the final day of celebration before everyone went back to the humdrum of work, and the dreary dark month of January. I jumped the gun this year by taking down the tree last week-end—perhaps bringing bad luck to my house—but the above freezing temperatures and lack of snow made me do it. This winter’s weather just feels weird and is down-right unsettling. The snowpack is at about 85% of average, so I guess that’s not so bad one week into January, but there is green grass everywhere in the valley, watery ponds, and it’s hard to develop a ‘mind for winter’ in weeks such as these. I find myself prematurely thinking I’ll hear robins on my walks. Because of the earth’s tilt, we’re having the latest sunrises of the year, so mornings are darker than ever, but as Joy has been posting her photos on Facebook, these are some of the most beautiful sunrises we ever see.
Not once has our road been plowed, and I have to say that it’s a delight to come home and not slide down on ice. At 7:30 a.m. today, The International Space Station did a four-minute fly by, and it was so pleasant to walk down to the dock on crunchy grass rather than through knee-deep snow. Although there was light coming up in the east, the Station was brilliant, rising on the horizon at WNW, and when we turned to watch it descend eastward, there was Venus above the tall trees, even brighter than the Space Station. The new young moon, that tiniest of fingernails, should be rising about 5:30 p.m. tomorrow across the lake, and, if my luck holds, there will be enough breaks in the clouds to make the first sighting. I’m feeling somewhat anxious about the moon, after China’s Chang’e-4 landed on the far side of it this week. According to Earthsky. org, the rover landed on a site where space debris pounded the moon long ago, possibly exposing the layer beneath the crust, whose contents will teach scientists more about the moon, and, therefore, more about our solar system. There is no way not to be astounded by astronomy and astrophysics, and to be amazed by the human drive for exploration and knowledge. It gives me goosebumps. In Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine, the physicist, Alan Lightman, writes with such a sense of wonder as he explores the universe, and I can feel that when I read his books. But, like in the movie Wall-E, I picture a moonscape, with a permanent space station, and am saddened by all the ways we might trash the Mystery. Sigh.
Well, with the Christmas tree down and decorations put away, I’m running out of excuses for avoiding the major purging and de-cluttering I signed up for with myself this January. But, if taking down the ornaments is any indication, this may be a slow process.
Taking Down the Tree
“Give me some light!” cries Hamlet’s
uncle midway through the murder
of Gonzago. “Light! Light!” cry scattering
courtesans. Here, as in Denmark,
it’s dark at four, and even the moon
shines with only half a heart.
The ornaments go down into the box:
the silver spaniel, My Darling
on its collar, from Mother’s childhood
in Illinois; the balsa jumping jack
my brother and I fought over,
pulling limb from limb. Mother
drew it together again with thread
while I watched, feeling depraved
at the age of ten.
With something more than caution
I handle them, and the lights, with their
tin star-shaped reflectors, brought along
from house to house, their pasteboard
toy suitcases increasingly flimsy.
Tick, tick, the desiccated needles drop.
By suppertime all that remains is the scent
of balsam fir. If it’s darkness
we’re having, let it be extravagant.